Adolescence and Attachment: Empowering a Constructive Rebellion

This presentation will focus on providing a pro-active approach to understanding attachment as it relates to empowering adolescent individuation.

Individuation is a developmental milestone when an adolescent becomes a whole, autonomous, compassionate, self-reflective and productive adult.

The goal is to promote a Constructive Rebellion: Empower adolescents to define and create success on their own terms.

I. The Myth of Adolescence: Adolescence begins at 13 and ends at 18. Adolescence is a process of individuation with three stages of development


Ex. George W. Bush


(Disclaimer: The process of individuation is based on the support mechanisms being in place (parents and family) to allow a child to develop. Oftentimes as professionals (therapists, teachers, counselors, or coaches) we need to support early individuation in order for a child to develop the tools to survive and adapt.


II. Early Adolescence (13-18); The teenager begins to see themselves as a whole and separate individual in the world

A. Separation but not individuation

1. More defined boundaries between parents and teenager

2. Actually an Increased dependence on parents

3. Teenager wants freedom without responsibility

B. Peer relations and identity

1. Outside –In

2. One-way relationships

3. Their world (technology and separation)

C. Attachment issues; Revisit early attachment issues

1. Secure vs. Insecure Attachment

2. Internalized Parent Object- secure self as defined by whole introjects vs. part

a. Integrate good and bad objects vs. splitting- all good or all bad

D. Explore the idea of ‘doing right by me’

E. Early Stage: It is necessary that there is a construct that provides structure for morals, values, ideals and future-oriented vision

F. Parents/Caregivers role:

1. Attunement; the parent being able to see and understand their child for who they are

2. (Winnicott)Good Enough Parent vs. The Helicopter Parent

a. True self vs. False Self and attachment

3. Support the Struggle

b. Illuminate the variables, consequences and choices

c. Widen the lens- different perspectives

4. Right brain-feelings, left brain rationale= parents are frontal lobe

a. Super Ego

b. Know where the line is- natural consequences

c. Clear limits and consequences

5. Provide a vision defined by the family’s values

6. Develop a Responsibility Agreement (clear expectations)

a. Set the frame for teenager

7. Sadistic and Masochist aspects of parenting

G. Empowering Constructive Rebellion in Early Adolescence

1. Friends

2. School- grades, homework, study, teacher relationships

3. Free time (unsupervised)- Responsibility=Freedom

4. Allowance and first job

5. Extracurricular activities

6. Struggles and problem solving

7. Explore sexual/aggressive instincts- relationships, sports, arts

8. Driving; independence, freedom and significant responsibility

*Most susceptible to drugs or alcohol during transition year from elementary to middle school and middle to high school

a. Signs; peers, trouble at school and community, low self esteem (particularly physical appearance in girls), grades, social issues


II. Middle Adolescence (18-25); Individuation is defined by adolescence ability to successfully launch and explore independence

A. Launching

B. Defining moral code- “doing right by me”

1. Becoming Inside-out

C. Identity exploration- who am I and who do I want to be

D. Attachment issues; revisiting object constancy

1. Secure vs. insecure

2. Whole Self vs. Part Self

3. Able to accept parents for who they are vs. judge them for who they are not

E. Develop Self-confidence vs. arrogance

1. Strengths and weaknesses

F. Continued Separation

G. Experimenting with Responsibility, Accountability, and Humility

H. Relationship formulation

1. Two-way relationships- mutuality

I. Creating a vision for the future

A. Parent/Caretaker Role

1. Become a resource

2. Mahler speaks of metaphorical holding: Honoring the struggle

a. Empathy and Sympathy, not problem solving

3. Develop fiscal responsibility and independence-set up a structure with budget and expectations

4. Parents hold their values and limits- encourage the struggle of ‘doing right by me’

5. Encourage Launching

6. Greater separation, moving toward independence

7. Develop separate and unique relationships with caregiver(s)

B. Empowering Constructive Rebellion in Middle Adolescence

1. Career exploration

2. Exploring Political/Cultural/religious identity

3. Experience being in an Independent living environment

4. Presentation, Diet and Hygiene

5. Relationships- clearer sense do peer group and mentors

6. Define values in regards to drugs and alcohol

7. Sexuality

a. Sexual identity

b. Explore intimate relationships (two person relationship)

*Drugs and Alcohol: increased experimentation or moving into addiction

1. Lack of sense of self and limited peer validation= grater susceptibility

2. Possibility of developing an identity defined by using/abusing


III. Late Adolescence (25-35); Defined sense of self

A. Emotionally whole- aware of insecurities and vulnerabilities

B. Responsible for self and consequences of choices

C. Developed moral code; inside-out

D. Attachment issues; adult relationship

1. Williams and Kelley (2005) did research on adolescent relationships with their Mother vs. Father

2. They discovered that a secure mother-adolescent relationship provides nurturance and a secure sense of self

3. The paternal attachment focuses more on character and behavior and therefore has a great impact on secure attachment in adult relationships

4. There is limited research on adolescent attachment with each parent, yet we can postulate that the father plays a crucial role in modulating dependence, independence, and interdependence

E. Physically and financially independence

F. Career vision

1. Have a job or working toward career

G. Formed identity; values, morals, personality, sense of character

1. Confidence

H. Defined sense of sexuality

1. Able to consider long term relationship

A. Parent/Caretaker Role

1. Adult-to-adult relationship

a. Greater sharing of each others’ struggles

b. Mutual support

2. Guidance and advice regarding life decisions

3. Support financial independence

4. Forced Launching

5. Continue to provided unconditional love, yet not unconditional support

C. Empowering Constructive Rebellion in Late Adolescence

1. Choosing a career path

2. Ability and desire to make their own money

3. Living independently

4. A self –defined community

5. Defined social network

6. Passions, hobbies, interests

7. Able to negotiate conflicts and tolerate the struggle

8. Building foundation for the future ( partner, family, home, career)


*Drugs and Alcohol: Develop as a coping skill for stress, anxiety, or failure

1. A way to numb feelings of inadequacies from insufficiently working through early or middle adolescence stages

J. iRYZE: Life Tool for Teenager

Discuss… Tools to empower a constructive rebellion

Four areas that promote individuation:

1. Organization; develop a system, routines, and rituals

2. Study Skills: ability to adapt to academic demands with success

3. Communication Skills for positive relationships with adults and peers

4. Self Advocacy; ability to communicate feelings and needs

a. Address all areas of functioning: Home, School, and Community

Friends – Virtual or Real?

What defines ‘friends’? It is good to make sure you know your friends in the real world before you add them in your my space or facebook. You are opening up your world — friends, thoughts, feelings, family, and personal life to these ‘friends’. Be safe, be smart! Only choose people that are real friends.

Pro-Active Parenting


  1. Plan Ahead; give time to think about all the considerations
  2. Set clear expectations, rules, rewards, and consequences
  3. Clearly state your responsibility and your child’s responsibility
  4. Allow discussion time between parents and children
  5. Have a back-up plan; what to do if something goes wrong


  1. Honesty policy; create environment which promotes open communication
  2. Family forums to discuss the family rules and proposed changes
  3. Set clear limits when consequences will occur (i.e. fighting, illegal activity, danger to self or others)
  4. Be flexible in times of need
  5. Be consistent, be consistent!


  1. Model appropriate behavior, expression of feelings, and sharing of thoughts
  2. If you want to be heard, you must learn to listen
  3. It’s okay to be less than perfect- acknowledge your mistakes
  4. Be supportive and open- foster trust and communication
  5. Remember to laugh!


  1. Differentiate needs from wants
  2. Encourage your child to identify their needs
  3. Model and verbalize your needs
  4. Take responsibility as a way to encourage responsibility
  5. Explanation: Use your words, model expressing thoughts and feelings

Behavioral/Allowance Charting


Goal: Develop a consistent* structure to reinforce positive behavior, extinguish negative behavior, empower children to learn, earn, and achieve success, and maintain a positive parent–child relationship.

Identify 1-3 behaviors (no more than 3) that you want to change (i.e. using words to express feelings, cleaning up room, improve hygiene).

Develop rewards that encourage positive behavior and family interaction (i.e. special play date/outing, books, education computer games, special meal)

The reward has to be meaningful for the child to be motivated

Time frame: Define how many times the behavior needs to be completed to earn reward (i.e. younger children (age 2-6) may earn something daily or hourly, older children (age 7-up) work on a weekly schedule)

Display the chart in a common area (i.e. on the refrigerator in the kitchen).

Use stickers or initials to mark off each time positive behavior is completed.

If positive behavior is not completed, leave blank. Do not reinforce (i.e. put a sad face on the chart) negative behavior.

Design behavioral chart so that children will succeed.


Goal: Teach children responsibility and positive consequences. Children will feel good about themselves, while receiving benefit from their good efforts and deeds.

  1. Parents and children work together to identify 1-3 household chores/responsibilities (i.e. cleaning room, making bed, taking trash out).
  2. Establish a value for completion of daily or weekly chores (i.e. $2.00 per day).
  3. Display the chart, and initial/happy face sticker for completion of daily chores.
    1. No punishments for not doing chores, only not receiving allowance.
  4. Allowance is given on Saturdays- based on completion of chores from the previous week.
    1. Allowance is ‘their’ money to spend how they wish
  5. Develop age appropriate chores, monetary values, and a plan to save money.
  6. Encourage saving a small amount of weekly allowance to open a checking account.

*Warning: CONSISTENCY- The only way behavioral/allowance charting will work is if parents are consistent and follow through with charting and rewards.

Parenting with Your Partner; Agreeing to Disagree

  1. I. Family Values: What are they?
    1. Experiential: What are the values that you’d like to pass on to your children?
      1. Foundation/Framework for parenting
        1. Priorities
        2. Making Choices
    2. Where do values come from?
      1. Family History
      2. Culture
      3. Religion
      4. Life experience
        1. Separate and unique to each partner
        2. Unconsciously shape our parenting style
        3. Be aware of your past and how you want to parent in the present
        4. Identify your ‘trigger points’- where you are most invested
          1. Ex: Family first, Mr. Mrs. = respect, Gratitude- please & thank you
    3. How children learn values?
      1. Modeling; the way we act, choices we make, and emotional response
        1. Parents as humans acknowledge their strengths and weakness
        2. Walk the Talk
        3. Discussing areas of growth
      2. Teachable moments; look for opportunities to provide tools vs. critique behavior
      3. Community- an extension of the family that reinforces values

a. Find like-minded families

b. Activities that support your values

c. Religious or Cultural events

4. External Contributors

a. TV, books, toys, computers, magazines

5. Reinforcers and Limits: How to set the frame?


II. Agreeing to Disagree

A. Honoring the ‘Us’- must nurture/cherish ‘the team

1. Language of ‘us and we’ vs. ‘you and I’

B. Have an open mind

1. Be an active listener

2. Intent to learn about your partner, not teach

C. Fight respectfully

1. Must respect partner’s thoughts, feelings and ideas

2. Own your piece, and contain your judgment

3. Work toward agreement, not contention- solution focused

4. Be responsive not reactive (avoid blame, shame, or maim)

5. Be able to self regulate, or pull back and regroup

D. Find private time, not with the kids present

1. Model cooling down

2. Allow time to think

E. ‘Ring the Bell”- either partner can call for a cool off

1. It is essential to know when things are spiraling down

2. Take a breather and revisit when calm

F. Communication and Language (Refer to Handout)

G. When we disagree in-front of the kids

1. Acknowledge parents discussing ideas, different ideas

2. Model Conflict resolution

3. Empathize with their feelings

a. Acknowledge their experience and opportunities to learn from them what it feels like Teachable moment

Posted by Dr. Jason Stein at 8:56 AM

Family Communication


  1. To Have Positive, Supportive Relationships with Family Members
  2. Understanding Each Other’s Thoughts and Feelings
  3. Getting Needs Met

Techniques for Improving Family Communication

  1.  Reflective Listening
    1. Be an active listener (i.e. focus energy on listening, not talking)
    2. Restate what is said to you (i.e. “You are saying that …”)
    3. Empathize feelings (i.e. if you were in their shoes)
    4. Work toward compromise
  2. I-Statements
    1. Own your feelings (“I feel sad and nervous when you yell at me.”)
    2. Talk in the first person (“I do not like when we fight.”)
    3. Do not blame, shame or maim (“You are mean when you say no.”)
  3. Tone of Voice
    1. Talk soft and slow
    2. Short sentences
    3. Calm and thoughtful – be empathic
  4. Body Language
    1. Meet the other person at eye level
    2. Do not cross your arms or put them on your hips – be open
    3. Mirror the other person’s posture (i.e. sit down with them)
  5. Timing
    1. Avoid distractions (i.e. make a time to talk)
    2. Plan ahead (i.e. give parents time so they can make plans)
    3. Be responsible (i.e. be home on time)
    4. Think about parents’ needs (i.e. safety; whose driving, address, phone numbers, other parents involved)

What is a Constructive Rebellion?

The idea of of a constructive rebellion is to gain independence and confidence by creating success on your own terms.

Teenagers can create a constructive rebellion by creating their own community, playing sports, art, music, doing well in school, demonstrating responsibility to gain more freedom, and many other ways.

You tell me- what are the ways you can create a constructive rebellion?

What is iRYZE?

iRYZE is a simple, direct, and self-guiding program which allows the teenager to define who they are and create their own portfolio for organization, studying, communication, and self-advocacy.

The Ryzers are workbooks that provide different life tools with self-exploratory questions, the ability to set goals, develop new tools, add artwork and create an individualized portfolio.

Ideally, there is no one way to use iRYZE. The Ryzers can be used in any order and the tools can be discussed and applied as it relates to individuals, and small or large groups. Feel free to experiment, add tools, design projects, and participate in the iRYZE experience.